On February 1, 2012, 18-year-old Samantha Koenig was working a shift at a coffee stand in Anchorage, Alaska when a man walked in, pointed a gun to her head, and told her to come with him.
As the security footage shows, Samantha immediately obeyed, putting her hands up and coming out from behind the counter. From there, the man put her in his car and they drove off to his property, where he tied her up in a shed and raped her repeatedly.
Then, he cut her body to pieces. It was an act of cold cruelty from a man who seemed to lack any shred of empathy for his fellow humans.
But as brutal as those last moments of Samantha’s life were, they also marked the beginning of the end for one of the most heinous serial killers in modern history – Israel Keyes.
A Serial Killer’s Childhood
Israel Keyes was raised in a Mormon household. His parents were white supremacists who didn’t believe in the official education system. They kept Israel at home so that he wouldn’t be influenced by any outsiders.
With little contact with other perspectives other than white supremacist and racist ideology, it is perhaps no surprise that Israel Keyes ended up becoming a white supremacist himself.
At the age of 20, he enlisted in the army and served at Fort Lewis, Fort Capote, and in Egypt. His fellow soldiers, reflecting back on him during that time, described him as quiet and reserved but with a dark side that would often surprise them on the weekends.
As soon as Friday night rolled around, he would go wild, blasting fascist metal music and downing bottle after bottle of bourbon.
Although he had no trouble absorbing the hate of white supremacist and fascist ideology, the one thing that didn’t rub off on Israel was the Mormon religion. While serving in the military, he renounced Mormonism, and became an atheist.
And while Israel might have learned discipline in the army, it certainly didn’t shape him into an upstanding citizen as his father might have hoped. Instead, it was not long after leaving that he embarked on his life of crime.
Israel Keyes Seemed Normal on the Surface
Israel left the army with an honorable discharge. But the following six years were marked by a spree of crimes that the police never managed to pin on him.
He robbed banks, stole from stores, and executed a series of scams. He later admitted that during this period he even raped a girl for the first time. But like the rest of his crimes, he was never caught.
While all of these crimes were taking place, Israel’s life on the surface must have seemed quite normal. He moved to Alaska in 2007 and became a carpenter. He lived in a house with his girlfriend and daughter.
But even so, he began to travel around the country, committing murders and leaving no trace of evidence for the authorities to find.
From Criminal to Serial Killer
His murders were all carefully planned and executed, starting with the Currier family in 2011. On June 2 of that year, Israel Keyes flew from Anchorage to Chicago. He then rented a car and drove another 800 miles to Vermont, where he found a remote house.
There at home, he found the newlywed Curriers. After cutting the telephone lines, Israel entered the house and tied up the couple. He then proceeded to rape and strangle Mrs. Currier before shooting her husband.
Then, he got rid of the bodies through a careful process that he would employ over and over again all over the country. By the time police were alerted to their disappearance, there was no sign of what had happened.
Israel was able to elude police for years because his crimes were seemingly random. Each time he boarded a plane to a new city, he would rent a car, drive to a carefully selected location, and carry out his crimes.
On the way, he would map out his escape routes and his ideal sites for discarding the bodies. Then he would put together a so-called “murder kit,” which held everything from guns to rope to tape.
He was a meticulous planner, and the seeming randomness of the acts meant the police had no idea they were dealing with a serial killer. It was not until the killing of Samantha Koenig that Israel Keyes would make his only mistakes.
How Israel Keyes Slipped Up with Samantha Koenig
The first difference with Samantha is that he committed the murder in his home city – Anchorage. But the real mistake came days after the actual killing.
After disposing of Samantha’s body, Israel left town to avoid any kind of suspicion. When he returned, he then decided to do something he hadn’t done with any of his other victims – he ransomed Samantha’s parents.
Even though Samantha was long dead, he assured them that she was still alive and that he had her locked up. He even sent them a picture he had taken of her with that day’s newspaper. To make it seem like she was alive in the photo, he used a fishing line to sew her eyes open.
The parents believed the photo and immediately sent him the 30,000 dollars he demanded. Then came his next mistake. When Israel was taking money from an ATM, the camera caught him on film. Nothing happened at first.
But a few months later, while driving through Lufkin, Texas, the police pulled Israel over for speeding. They then searched his car and found several strange items: masks, rolled-up wads of cash, and a woman’s credit card and phone.
Once the police confirmed that the phone and credit card belonged to Samantha Koenig, Israel’s fate was sealed. The police brought him in for interrogation.
Instead of denying his crimes or trying to weasel his way out, Israel seemed proud. And he even played with the police who were questioning him. He told him he’d only reveal information about his crimes if they gave him special treats, like Starbucks coffee, chocolates, and other food and drinks.
In order to get the information they wanted, the police complied, no doubt chafing at the idea of having to appease such a murderous individual. Soon, however, they had all of the sinister details that they wanted to put Keyes away for life.
Following the instructions he had given them, the police found two of Israel’s many “murder kits,” which gave them the evidence they needed to convict him.
If Israel’s imprisonment had been any comfort to the families of his victims though, they would soon be disappointed. On December 2, 2012, Israel Keyes was found dead in his jail cell, having slit his wrists and hung himself with his bedsheets.
On the floor of his cell, he left a rambling note written in both blood and ink. On it were 11 skulls drawn in his blood and the words, “We Are One,” most likely in reference to his eleven victims.
Of all of the lives that Israel Keyes took, his suicide was by far the most merciful.